Monday, August 26, 2013

Author guest post: Writing from different perspectives by Sally Partridge

On the blog today, I’ve got a lovely guest post from South African Young Adult author, Sally Partridge. For those who may have previously missed it, I recently featured an excerpt along with the cover reveal of Sharp Edges, which is Sally’s latest novel.

In her post today, Sally will be telling us what her book is about and what it was like writing from different character perspectives.

Now I’m no published author, but the one thing I know is that writing and switching between different character points of view is definitely no easy feat. Luckily for us, Sally’s not only given us some brief insight into this, but she also introduces us to the character’s we’ll get to meet.

Before I hand over the blog to Sally, here’s some more info about her latest release: 

About Sharp Edges:

Six friends attend a music festival in the Cederberg.

Only five come back.

For her seventeenth birthday Demi Crowley invites her five closest friends to join her at a music festival for a party to end all parties.

But what was supposed to be the night of their lives soon becomes a nightmare none of them will ever forget.

Sharp Edges is a topsy-turvy tale of love, loss and friendship that will stay with you long after the final page has been turned, and leave you questioning what you really know about your friends.


Read an excerpt from the book, previously featured on the blog.

                               
Over to the lovely Sally.

On being seven people at once 

So I wrote a book. Not a big book - it’s tiny if you compare it to massive tomes like Divergent and Breaking Dawn. Still, I like to think it’s a complex little read, full of twists and turns and jumbles.

What’s it about? Sharp Edges tells the story of six friends who attend a music festival but only five come back. It is a topsy-turvy tale of love, friendship and death. 

So what’s so complicated about that?

Well, Sharp Edges is not only set back to front, but the story is told through the perspective of seven different people. This means I had to get into the head of seven, completely different teenagers. Seven. Imagine an actor getting into character. Well I had to do that seven times.

Creating teenage protagonists is complicated enough as it is. Teenagers are emotional, fearless, uncertain, all for nothing, troubled, and a million other things too. In Sharp Edges, the teenage cast is all of the above, but also smack-bang in the middle of a crisis, reeling from grief, guilt and anger.

The biggest challenge of writing seven different people was that these characters literally needed to be seven different people. They have their own backstories, their own personalities, they sound different, and they act different and they think differently.

Let me introduce them. 

1. Bonang.
Bonang only appears in the prologue, so I had very little space to explore this firecracker of a character.

Her job is set up the plot and prepare the reader for what comes next. Still, she's a dynamic character in her own right, with a lot of personality.

"I sashay towards the dance floor, my fingers waving at all the familiar faces from recent parties. I spin on the spot, motioning for Ntombi to join me, but she isn’t looking at me.

I watch as she and Ashley slip into a booth at the far end of the room. My good mood crumples a little. I’m not used to Ntombi having other friends."

So who is Bonang? She is a feisty city girl. She's confident. She loves to party, but she's also a little jealous. 

2. Demi

Aka the girl who died.

Don't panic. This is not a spoiler. The reader discovers she died on the very first page (not to mention in the blurb and book trailer.)

Demi was the sparkling star that all the other characters orbited. She was all about the moment, the party, the high. But she also had a big heart, and that's where her fragility lies.
 

I let some time pass and wrote Demi last. I guess I didn’t want any of the other characters’ personality traits sneaking in.

3. Damian

Damian was Demi's boyfriend. He's something of a loner, uncertain about his life.  When the reader first encounters him, he is broken, filled with anger. Writing him was like being in a dreamlike state. Damian is lost, trying to claw himself back into the world. 

4. V

V is a mystery wrapped inside a puzzle. She's a closed box, unwilling to open, hesitant to let anyone look inside.
 

Writing V was to write economically.
 

When I revealed something I almost immediately took it back again.

This is not because V is uncertain of her own feelings, but holds them close, unable to let them go.


5. James

James is a bad boy, unable to dig himself free of the trouble he's in. He approaches life boldly, brashly.

His head is a mess. Thankfully, there was a lot of urgency to his thoughts, which made my job easier.

6. Siya

Siya is cool, calm and collected, but filled with ….

I think I should leave Siya as a mystery and let the reader unravel his layers on their own.
 

7. Ashley

Ashley is your typical, awkward teenage girl. She wants to fit in, but isn't quite sure how to. 

As a result she's full to the brim with teenage anxiety and self-esteem issues. To write Ashley I had to draw on my own troubled teenage years. 

My job is as a writer is to create real characters. They're not just made-up plot devices that appear on a sheet of paper. Write authentically, and your characters will come across as authentic.

My advice for writing in different perspectives is to read what you've written out loud. That's the easiest way to pick up speech patterns.

Then look at your sentences and ask yourself if they all look the same.

Some teenagers are witty, others introspective, some talk in bursts, others are able to express their feelings meaningfully.

Imagine you are inside the character's head watching them write down the words.

Shameless plug time!

I'll be talking more in-depth about the processes that go into writing young adult fiction at a YA masterclass at the Open Book Festival in September.

The details are as follows:
Date: Wednesday 11 September 2013
15.00 – 17.00 Central Library (Cape Town) Seminar Room 1

This YA workshop will also be featuring fellow YA authors, Cat Hellisen and Sarah Lotz

I would recommend this event for anyone interested in writing young adult fiction. Please rsvp to me directly at sallypar(at)gmail.com

No costs involved.
Thanks for stopping by Sally.

About Sally:
S.A Partridge is an award-winning author of teen fiction and one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans.

Sally is the author of young adult novels The Goblet Club, Fuse and Dark Poppy’s Demise and has twice won the M.E.R. Prize for Youth Ficiton as well as other distinctions.

Where you can find Sally:
Web 
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads


Side note: I’ll be attending the Open Book festival and will be doing a few features, talking more about the authors, both local and international who’ll be in Cape Town, come September.

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